Tour of the Russian Wonders: Moscow and St. Petersburg in 5 days

Tour of the Russian Wonders: Moscow and St. Petersburg in 5 days

A journey is best measured in friends, rather than in miles – Tim Cahill

We had met in Delhi after a gap of 25 years on the occasion of silver jubilee of passing out of college. It was then that four of my classmates and I had decided to go on an all women’s trip to relive our old camaraderie in a new place, in a different city, maybe in a different country.

 

Thus, began the search for a tour company and we got in touch with SOTC holidays for their World Tour Packages.

For us Indians, Russia generally does not come across as a top destination of choice for tourism as it is perceived as a cold and distant place, off the radar. But, that was precisely the reason why we chose Russia.

As Aldous Huxley has said –

To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.

SOTC Holidays suggested a customized tour package for us to two Russian cities – Moscow and St Petersburg. We decided to grab this opportunity to see the present capital and the past capital of Russia. It took us about a month of planning and coordination to finalize the tour and finally in the 3rd week of August, we set off on a five day trip to St Petersburg and Moscow. Our itinerary included 3 days of stay in St. Petersburg and 2 days in Moscow, with guided city tours scheduled on the 2nd and 5th day of the trip.

Delhi was the starting point of our group tour (three of my friends stay in Delhi). Boarding the early morning flight from Delhi, we landed in Moscow. From there we got onto the flight for St. Petersburg. Strangely, we had to check out our luggage at Moscow and after completing the immigration, check in again on the flight to St Petersburg. It was a short flight. In one and a half hours, we were in St. Petersburg, the city known for its art, splendid architecture, beautiful gardens, magnificent cathedrals and the largest museum in Europe,

Arrival at St Petersburg

A young lady named Jane received us at the airport at St Petersburg and accompanied us to our hotel in the van. On the way, she briefed us a little on the city. The driver spoke only Russian though. The weather was pleasantly warm. We reached hotel Marco Polo by 1.30 pm and checked into the two rooms that were booked for the five of us. By 4.00 pm, we were all set to go out and explore the port city, which is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North.

Hermitage Museum
Hermitage Museum across River Neva

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10 Quotes that will prompt you to reconnect with old friends

Quotes on friends

It takes a long time to grow an old friend.  ~ John Leonard

People change, their priorities change and yet there is a common thread that binds old friends. The thread of shared memories. The year 2017 marks the 25th year of my passing out of college. It started with a nostalgic reunion with my old classmates from college at the silver jubilee meet in Delhi in February.

Connecting on social media had smoothed out the initial awkwardness of meeting after such a long gap as we got to know what each person had been up to in life since we were last together. With joy and anticipation, we planned to meet a day before the reunion.

If you’re old enough to have a job and to have a life, you use Facebook exactly as advertised, you look up old friends. ~ Jaron Lanier

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. ~ Elisabeth Foley

Nostalgia struck as we reminisced about the times we had spent in the old campus during our college days. Delhi Technical University was then known as Delhi College of Engineering. The campus where we studied was at Kashmiri Gate in Old Delhi. A new sprawling campus was coming up at Rohini, in the outskirts of Delhi. We had been to the site of the new campus a couple of times with our professors to study the design of the foundation. Three years after we had passed out, the college shifted out of its old premises into the new campus.

While they talked they remembered the years of their youth and each thought of the other as he had been at another time. ― John Williams

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We remembered our teachers and the projects and training that we had done together. We burst into laughter recollecting the stories of the monkeys who resided in the campus and frequented our classrooms from time to time. We recalled a field trip to Nainital and Dehradun when a massive earthquake shook up the whole state in the middle of the night; it had left us completely shaken up.

A good friend is a connection to life — a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world. ~Lois Wyse

Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read. ~Francis Bacon

On the next day, we had the opportunity to meet some of our old professors and some distinguished alumni the felicitation ceremony was held at Air Force Auditorium.  

However, sometimes people drift so apart that after the initial euphoria has fizzled out there’s nothing more to talk about. The next quote conveys this uneasy thought.

It’s always hard when you’ve known a person a long time and then you have to recognise that you have nothing left in common but your memories.” ~  Eva Heller

But then, chances are higher that reconnecting with old friends will rekindle your inner spirit. 

Old stories are like old friends. You have to visit them from time to time. ~ George R.R. Martin

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. ~Albert Schweitzer

We had parted with a resolve to meet again to make new memories. Five of us have teamed up for an all women’s trip together to Moscow & St Petersburg. So, yes travel stories are to follow. 

 

PS: This is a scheduled post.

5 Ways to prepare your blog for Content Marketing

5 Ways to prepare your blog for Content Marketing

In the post, What is Lifestyle Blogging? Why is it ideal for content marketing?‘  I had promised to come up with a post on how to prepare your lifestyle blog for content marketing and improve your chances of working with brands in India.

With the trend of digital marketing picking up, brands are increasingly looking at lifestyle blogs as vehicles for influencer marketing that can digitally spread the “word-of-mouth” about their products and services. Content marketing presents monetizing opportunities for bloggers. In this post, I have elaborated upon how I have geared up for content marketing, and how can you too.

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Interview with Jillian Haslam on her inspiring journey from Adversity to Success

Interview with Jillian Haslam on her inspiring journey from Adversity to Success

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”  ― Haruki Murakami

The story of Jillian Haslam is that of a woman who has faced and overcome adversity and has risen above the despairing circumstances that destiny had willed her, to emerge stronger and transform her own life and that of her family. Incredibly unique and inspiring is her journey from the slums of Kolkata to being a motivational speaker, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and a celebrity author. 

 

Born to British parents who decided to stay on in India after Independence, Jillian grew up in abject poverty living under a flight of stairs and then in the slums of Khidirpur in Kolkata. Living in poverty would have never been easy; the problems faced by the Haslam family were further compounded by the prejudice that people harboured on account of their different looks, colour and language.

At the age of 17, Jillian left Kolkata for Delhi.  After working in the Delhi for a few years, she got selected by the Bank of America, where her projects for corporate charity earned her accolades and eventually a passage to England, where she now lives with her husband and two of her sisters.

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Invest Befikar with Bajaj Allianz Future Wealth Gain

Invest Befikar with Bajaj Allianz Future Wealth Gain

Rarely do we come across anybody who gets excited about watching a show or reading an article that reminds them to invest systematically or to insure their lives. Long term investments sound like a smack of wisdom and insurance makes a rather uninteresting proposition. On the other hand, the news about a trader who traded in stocks with borrowed money and became a millionaire makes thrilling headlines.

Best Investment advice is often boring

We tend to forget that what is exciting now can be terrifying later and the best advice is often boring. Perhaps Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance realizes this psychological barrier very well, so when the company launched its Future Wealth Gain plan last month, they tried to make the event as interesting and creative as possible.

I was invited to the event and had gone with the idea of hearing some serious talks. Instead, I found that the team had organized peppy talk show and games centred on the theme of saving money, to engage the audience while educating about the concept of the product. I will also try to keep this post as simple as possible.

Bajaj Alliance Future Wealth Gain launch

As you have rightly guessed, this post is about: 

Future Wealth Gain: a Unit Linked Endowment Life Insurance Plan

In an earlier post, I had elaborated on why preserving and growing money are two key investment objectives. Our other investment goals could be to create income from the capital base, to save tax, or to save for big expenses like buying a house, planning vacations abroad, or discharging financial responsibilities like funding children’s education or marriage.

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Plan your finances in your 30s to enjoy financial freedom later

Plan your finances in your 30s to enjoy financial freedom later

I would rather enjoy with my money now than save it to enjoy at a later date,” professed Anuj Arora (name changed to protect identity), a few days back.

A young man in his mid-twenties, Anuj has shifted to Mumbai from Delhi after taking up a job. He had approached me for some guidance on admission in B-Schools. Among other things he shared with me how his expenses had increased after he had taken up the job and shifted base. He also told me that whenever he called up his parents, they would invariably advise him to start investing.

I said it was a very sound advice and suggested that he should take it seriously. That is when he told me that he would rather enjoy with his money now than save it for later, and added that most people of his age group think in a similar way. When I further probed on how he would fund for his MBA expense, he retorted with an air of nonchalance that his parents would sponsor him.

For many young people like Anuj, investing may seem like a very uninteresting proposition; so they defer it. But in doing so they tend to miss out on the opportunity to have financial freedom later in life when they would need to incur bigger expenses.

What I said to him goes as follows, and this generally holds good for all young people.

Relationship between Income and Expenses

When you are in your teens or even in your earlier twenties managing expenses is quite simple. All you do is to call up your dad or mom and ask them to send you money. But as you grow up the degree of difficulty in managing expenses also goes up. Your paycheck may get fatter each year, yet your expenses will also somehow always seem to shoot up.  You will need to pay off your bills, rent, etc. EMIs will start from the time you take a loan to purchase a car.

As you take another loan to purchase your house, more EMI gets deducted from your salary. When you get married, your expenses increase further, and when you have children your expenses hit the roof. You first want to send your children to the best school, then to the best college and you want to ensure that your family in good health. You aspire for a bigger house, a bigger car, trendy dressing, vacations, fine dining etc. All of these cost money. And yes, prices also go up each year!

Overall, as your income increases so do your expenses, as you tend to spend more towards improving your standard of living, and you may also have financial contingencies to deal with.

Must Read:  Are you saving enough for your child’s education?

Benefits of Investing Early

Invest Early

A rupee saved is worth more than a rupee spent. When you invest your money, you are making your money work for you. The earlier you start investing, the greater are the potential gains due to compounding.

By the time you are in your 30s, you are settled to a career choice. You should then consider investing in a long-term investment plan to achieve the financial flexibility to fulfil your dreams like travelling or purchasing your house, or a car etc.

If you have made up the mind to invest but are not sure where to invest, you can make use of a Guided Portfolio.

A Guided Portfolio is an advised portfolio by Edelweiss that helps you to decide on an investment strategy based on your age and risk profile. By allocating your investment amount in an optimal manner across asset classes (Equity and Debt). It selects suitable mutual funds for you. Once schemes are selected, you can execute the transaction in one click. You can monitor your portfolio performance on a regular basis.

Remember that the benefits of starting to invest early are enormous. Time proves to be your biggest ally as you have 2- 3 decades to take advantage of market opportunities and you also have the time to recover if something were to go wrong. By taking advantage of time, you can get a head start on saving for your future and take the steps forward towards an improved quality of life in the long run.

 

 

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